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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Meningitis case ordeal for GP

The funding crisis affecting the quality framework is set to worsen next year with PCTs facing a £300 million shortfall in money needed to pay GPs.

Trusts will have to find the extra funds because the Government only plans to pay for GPs to achieve 850 points on average.

The figure falls well below GPs' expected average score of 920-950 points this year.

PCTs already have to find £100 million extra for 2004 because the Department of Health has only given

them enough to pay for GPs to score 777 points.

But the shortfall will be far higher in 2005/6, because the value of each quality point rises from £75 to £120.

The decision was disclosed by NHS officials in a National Primary and Care Trust Development Team (Natpact) forum to help PCT managers implement the new contract.

Officials also revealed that the £100 million quality funding gap this year will be shared equally between PCTs ­ regardless of how their practices scored.

The 'risk-share' will be used to save trusts whose GPs scored highly from having to make major cuts in services.

But it is set to hit PCTs in more deprived areas where GPs are less likely to achieve high scores.

David Foord, clinical governance manager for Newcastle-under-Lyme PCT, said he had been told by Natpact primary care contracting adviser Bill May that trusts would split the shortfall.

Mr May confirmed the decision to Pulse but refused to comment.

Chris Town, chair of NHS Employers GMS contract negotiating team, attacked the plan. He said sharing the cost of underfunding was the equivalent of 'robbing Peter to pay Paul'.

He said: 'We do not share risk on anything else, it is the responsibility for every PCT to balance the books locally.'

Mr Foord said the move would put inner-city areas under more pressure. He added: 'You will be subsidising other PCTs. Even if you think you've been over-funded you will be paying for other areas.'

Dr Kambiz Boomla, chair of City and East London LMC, said the Government had to find extra money to pay for quality achievment.

He said: 'It is not in the Government's interest that the contract will fail.'

By Anna Goldie

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